A prayer of confession to Marduk (Psalm 38)

Bilderesultat for marduk god

Illustration: Marduk vs. Tiamat

Since the Psalms originated from the same cultural milieu as other ancient Near Easter hymns and prayers, Bible readers need not be surprised to find that Israelite and pagan texts can be similar. In Psalm 38 David lamented that God was against him. God, he alleged, came at him like a warrior (38:2), and David felt sick and feeble (38:3-6, 13-14). He recognized that he had sinned against God (38:3, 18) and concluded the psalm with a plea for the Lord’s help (38:21-22).

From Akkadian literature comes a similar prayer to Marduk, the chief god of Babylon (date of composition unknown). In it the poet bemoaned Marduk’s anger. He confessed that he had sinned against Marduk and lamented that he was so afflicted that he was bent over like an old man. He pled for forgiveness and concluded “O warrior Marduk, let me sound your praises!” Unlike the psalmist, however, this supplicant was fatalistic about Marduk’s actions (“Who can understand a god’s behaviour?” he bemoaned) and also sought the aid of lesser gods and goddesses.

Just as we can cite similarities between Christian and non-Christian worship in contemporary society, so also we can find correlations in the Old Testament world. The similarities between an Old Testament and a Mesopotamian prayer help us to see what was common to the world of that day in terms of prayer language. The difference, on the other hand, enable us to recognize the distinctive faith of Israel.


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